How working remotely lowered my resting heart rate 22%

My resting heart rate data 2019-2021, captured from my Apple Watch (screenshot composed from Health app)
My resting heart rate data 2019-2021, captured from my Apple Watch (screenshot composed from Health app)

I’ve had my Apple Watch since early 2019, or a little under 2 years at the time of writing. Throughout our time together it has been dutifully recording my heart rate as I go about my day. I haven’t paid much attention to it, so I was surprised to learn that now - in January 2021 - my resting heart rate is a full 12 BPM (just over 22%) lower than it was back in early 2019. That’s despite the pandemic, associated lockdowns, and the birth of our second son (although to be fair my wife did a lot of the legwork on that particular day). Nevertheless, a drop from 59 to 47BPM feels worthy of investigation.

Environment

I lived in London for 14 years, and in autumn 2019 my family and I moved to a relatively small rural village in Hampshire. It’s of course literally much quieter than it was in London, and I’m outside 'in nature' a lot more - be it in the garden, running, or on a walk with the family. It’s hard to extract correlation from causation as being outside is tightly coupled with exercise, but I think it's fair to assume a quiet, leafy environment is beneficial to my health.

Exercise

This is the obvious change. I run more. I used to walk a lot in London (well over 10,000 steps daily) and did some irregular strength training. Now I run about 3 miles 3 times a week. I also do 5 minutes of strength training most days, together with a few minutes of yoga to keep the rust out. It's not particularly intense - I often feel guilty that I haven't worked out 'hard enough' - but it's very sustainable, and I believe I'm now seeing the compounding effects of consistency pay off. I doubt I would have stuck to a more strenuous routine.

Diet

My diet basically hasn’t changed. It could certainly be better - I still have a sweet tooth and a penchant for a drop of Japanese whiskey - but my 2021 diet is broadly similar to my 2019 diet. I've been experimenting with intermittent fasting 4 days a week since September 2020, but bottom line, I don't believe food is a factor.

Commuting

Or lack thereof. My commute is now a brisk 8-second walk from the house to the garage, where I work in the converted loft space. Plainly this is much less stressful than getting on the dreaded Northern Line at rush hour, which often drew comparison with the battle for Middle Earth. My subsequent pre-pandemic commute into London was longer – about 1h20m, followed by a 45-minute walk - but certainly less stressful than the tube. Either way, I’d be very surprised if removing the regular inherent stress of travel from my life hasn’t been a factor.

Surprise

Perhaps the most interesting part of this is that it caught me by surprise. I don’t subjectively ‘feel’ much healthier than I was 18 months ago. I’m generally quite optimistic, so at any given point over the last 2 years I could have likely said something positive about my exercise habits, yet it's clear that real change only happened in the last year.

Basically, I've learned that I'm terrible at assessing my own health and that the cold, rational eye of technology is a pretty good way to get some objectivity. And if that's not a great justification for buying a new Apple Watch, I don't know what is.

James Chambers
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